The Euros in France left the Azzurri with a newfound confidence in their means and with a sense, at least in some quarters, that the 3-5-2 should be their default formation. Coach Giampiero Ventura's early interviews stressed that the foundation to his project will be the good work of former CT Antonio Conte, which is inextricably tied to a three-man defence.
The set-up was necessary at the time because the team was severely lacking in technical talent in the midfield and, somewhat to a lesser extent, in the attack. With Marco Verratti lost to injury, Bonucci was asked to push up and act as a rather unusual playmaker, one starting from very low positions.
Under these premises, it would be foolhardy of Ventura not to build a flexible team capable of accommodating a variety of combinations in the attack. The 3-5-2, with its heavy emphasis on dynamic wingers, is a candidate – but it's neither the only one, nor in all likelihood the best.
The 3-5-2 relies heavily on physical rather than technical wingers, ones possessing outstanding stamina and speed. Italy's names in that department are perhaps a little too attack-minded and/or specialised. Again, the candidates are not poor by any means, but it doesn't make sense to build a formation around quick and versatile work-horses if the only one you have is Alessandro Florenzi (and he’s out for several months too).
Perhaps Ventura's greatest challenge is that of building an efficient attack, the options for which are a mixed bag to say the least. Andrea Belotti, Domenico Berardi and Ciro Immobile are all emerging as valid if inexperienced poachers, whilst Mario Balotelli and Sebastian Giovinco are resurgent in their exiles.
Stephan El Shaarawy and Lorenzo Insigne, arguably Italy's most technical forwards, are also among the most absurdly inconsistent players. Half of the time they amble around the pitch like a deaf composer who is meditating on his next symphony, and the other half they're bolting all over the place like Popeye on spinach.
The point being that Ventura still has no idea what his attack is going to look like in 2018, nor should he. Nobody would have expected Eder and Graziano Pellè to be the Azzurri's starters in the last major tournament, and it's perfectly conceivable that the next international cannoniere could earn his place with a notice of mere months.
There are, however, various reasons why Italy should start distancing themselves from the Euro 2016 formation. We have already proposed that Ventura's national team should start experimenting, both conceptually and in terms of his individual men. Here we will consider some of the reasons he should change paths from a strictly tactical point of view.
With Alessio Romagnoli, Daniele Rugani hg87999注册and Armando Izzo still quite a way from the levels of the famous BBC, it makes sense not to rely too much on a three-man defence. The odds of losing a starter to injury, either before or during a tournament, would be simply too high. It is a safer bet, surely, to save the third defender as a super-sub, thus virtually guaranteeing a superb central defence throughout.
Ditching old systems and finding new ones is not a matter of preference at this stage, but one of survival.
But the conditions calling for that system have ceased to exist. Italy's defence, while still very strong, is beginning to bow under the weight of its years. Chiellini is 32, and was injured twice this season already. Barzagli, no less than 35, has just been ruled out for two months, and Bonucci will be 31 by the time the next World Cup comes round.
No less importantly, Italy are no longer bereft of craft in the midfield. Verratti is being rolled back into the squad, and the team should be built around his luminous talent. Napoli's Jorginho is a fine passer, and Federico Bernardeschi is a remarkable all-rounder who can link up well with the midfield, play as a trequartista or on the wing. Alongside these youngsters, the likes of Claudio Marchisio and Antonio Candreva can supply great skill and experience.
The expedient worked remarkably well, and while much was made of Conte's moti永利官网vational skill, his tactical foresight should not be downplayed either. Italy made it as far as they did because their system was perfectly tuned to maximise their abilities, not because their squad was better 澳门瑞丰than their opponents'.
It should not be forgotten that Conte's 3-5-2 was not generic, but particular to his squad. This means that it was specifically designed to bring out the best from the team's three-man defensive unit of Leonardo Bonucci, Giorgio Chiellini and Andrea Barzagli.
We’re seeing the 4-3-3 or variants of it finding success all over Serie A this season, from Milan to Roma, Atalanta to Torino and Napoli to Sassuolo.
Part of the point of a three-man defence was to give Bonucci the necessary back-up to push forward, but that's no longer necessary. The midfielders can now take care of playing the ball by themselves.
A flexible 4-3-3 or a 4-2-3-1 must certainly be given a trial. Italy have sufficient defensive talent to guarantee an outstanding four-man back-line, but they run greater risks when depending on three centre-backs. Their midfield has enough quality to be deployed in any way, but they won't go anywhere unless the right formation is found to sustain their forwards.
It could very well be a name that we do not expect. Italy is full of strikers in their prime who make it a habit of returning from the shadows to produce an incredible run of form. This is what Immobile and Balotelli are doing now, and their arc could very well be replicated next year by the likes of Simone Zaza, Mattia Destro or Manolo Gabbiadini, to name but a few.